TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State's depth chart lists Jordan Travis or McKenzie Milton as the Seminoles starting quarterback.
It may as well read Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton.
Seminoles coach Mike Norvell did not name a starting quarterback for the season opener against Notre Dame and he hasn't announce one for the Jacksonville State game on Saturday. He has been consistent, saying “we’ve got a great quarterback room.”
Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham took it a step further, offering a candid answer.
“The key is making a team prepare for both,” Dillingham said. “Regardless of how much both are used it’s the thought that both can play. Every coach in America is petrified of the unknown. They are not going to go into a game not prepared. We’ll stay up to 1 a.m. making sure we have a plan for everything. … In coaching, you live in a paranoid world. So our goal is to keep people as paranoid as possible.”
Jacksonville State, which is coming off a 31-0 loss to UAB on Sept. 1, will feel the headache of preparing for two quarterbacks. But Florida State has a good problem — Travis and Milton have experience and their varying skillsets were on display in a 41-38 overtime loss to No. 9 Notre Dame.
Travis started and completed 9 of 19 passes for 130 yards, two touchdown passes and three interceptions (he also ran for 31 yards and a touchdown). But Travis was clearly tiring early in the fourth quarter and, when his helmet was popped off, Norvell sent in Milton. In his first game in nearly three years, Milton completed 5 of 7 passes for 48 yards and also ran three times for six yards.
Milton’s greatest assets are his experience as well as delivering passes from the pocket while under pressure, often with various arm slot angles. While he is mobile, he isn’t nearly as elusive as Travis and could get hit or sacked more. Travis’ greatest asset is his ability to evade pressure, but he’s shown inconsistency when throwing on the run with three interceptions against Notre Dame.
For the time, and perhaps the long term, the Seminoles plan to use both quarterbacks.
“We played who we felt gave us the best chance to win,” Dillingham said. “And we’re going to continue to do that.”
Jacksonville State has no doubts about who will start at quarterback. Senior Zerrick Cooper, who began his career at Clemson, needs just 76 yards to pass Eli Jenkins (7,652 from 2013-16) as the Gamecocks’ all-time leading passer.
Cooper has thrown for 7,577 yards in his career but he was just 17 of 34 for 88 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in the opener against UAB.
Some other storylines to watch when Florida State plays host to Jacksonville State:
Coach John Grass is 68-22 in eight seasons at Jacksonville State. Grass has the 10th highest winning percentage among Division I coaches.
STOPPING THE RUN
Florida State had little success against the run in 2020, allowing 180 or more rushing yards in five of its nine games. The Seminoles gave up just 65 rushing yards on 35 carries against Notre Dame, the first time Florida State held an FBS opponent under 100 rushing yards since Arizona State in the 2019 Sun Bowl.
FBS vs. FCS
The Seminoles have had some close calls in recent years but are 26-0 all-time against FCS schools. Florida State avoided an upset against Samford (36-26 in 2018). Last year, Jacksonville State led 14-0 in the first quarter before Travis came off the bench to spark a 41-24 win.
Norvell played at Central Arkansas so he understands the level of talent at lower levels as well as Group of 5 and Power 5 programs.
“We found ourselves in a very uncomfortable situation because they’ve got good players,” Norvell said.
COMMITTED TO RUN
Florida State averaged 199 rushing yards per game in 2020 and running the ball is the identity of Norvell’s offense. The Seminoles’ 264 rushing yards against Notre Dame were the most against a ranked opponent since having 287 vs. No. 10 Clemson in 2012.
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